SARAH ADLINGTON has, it is safe to say, been through the ringer over the past few years.

The judo player has endured a string of injuries which has kept her off the mat for lengthy spells and severely hindered her attempt to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics but slowly but surely, the 31-year-old from Edinburgh has battled her way back to full fitness.

At the end of last year, Adlington, who won Commonwealth Games gold in the heavyweight category in 2014, showed signs that she was close to recapturing her best form by winning a bronze medal at The Hague Grand Prix and this weekend, she steps up another level when she goes in the Paris Grand Slam, one of the biggest judo events of the year.

And with the Olympic qualifying period for Tokyo 2020 beginning later this year, she is desperate to put in another strong performance. “Paris is the first big competition of the year and it’s always a good one so I’m really looking forward to fighting,” she said.

“I beat the Olympic champion in Paris but I’ve also been injured there so I have very mixed memories of the event. But I’m really excited about this one.

“The back end of last year for me was just about getting back into things after injury so I’m still trying to get better and competing and focusing on the process rather than the outcome. But I feel like I’m getting better at that.

“ With Olympic qualifying beginning soon, this year is important. The qualifying period comes round so fast – especially when you’re out for a year, before you know it, qualification is here again.

But I’m feeling good – I’ve been working on body robustness to help stay injury-free and that’s been great.”

Adlington has been at the top of her sport for much of her senior career but a change in the policy from British Judo meant that only athletes who relocated to the national centre in Walsall would be eligible for funding.

So, despite Adlington being in the top 25 in the world, she receives not a penny of support from British Judo leaving her in the precarious position of having to fund herself as the Tokyo Olympics approach. “Tokyo is absolutely massive – at one point, I didn’t even know if I would be fit enough to ever fight again but the end of last year went really well so I’m feeling good about things,” she said.

“Japan is the home of judo so it would be amazing to be there. For any judo player, to have the opportunity to fight in an Olympic Games there is too good to pass up. But my life is in Edinburgh and I just didn’t want to move away from that. My coach is here, I’m doing a degree here and everything I know is in Edinburgh.

“The Sportscotland Institute of Sport help a little bit but I just need to get on with it – I have no other option. It will get very tough once Olympic qualification starts because I’ll need to be fighting internationally very regularly - I don’t really have a plan yet about what I’m going to do but hopefully it will be okay.”

The 2018 Commonwealth Games begin in less than two months but with judo excluded from the programme this time around, Adlington does not have the opportunity to defend the gold medal she won in Glasgow.

But despite the strain that elite level judo puts on ones body, she admits she does have her eye on continuing until the 2022 Games which will see judo make its return. “It’s such a shame that judo isn’t in the Commonwealth Games this time around,” she said. “Eight years between the two is a long time but I do have an inkling that I’d like to try to retain my title. But that’s a long way away so we’ll just need to see how things go.”